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Original Issue

In Search of Ratface

A Tar Heels fan travels into the heart of darkness to see if Coach K and the Dukies are truly evil


by WillBlythe


It had long beenWill Blythe's wish to make Mike Krzyzewski cry. Which only serves as areminder: Be careful what you wish for. While interviewing the Duke basketballcoach last year, Blythe, a former editor at Esquire, did indeed make him weep.Yet Blythe also had a distressing epiphany: Coach K is not half as bad as hehad hoped.

That's right:hoped. A North Carolinian and a 1979 graduate of Chapel Hill, Blythe roots forhis Tar Heels as passionately as his forebears rooted for Stonewall Jackson. Heroots just as passionately against UNC's rivals, the conveniently named BlueDevils.

But why? Not longago Blythe was asked that very question by a nine-year-old boy named Harry (hisgirlfriend's son). "Because," he patiently explained, Dukies are"terrible people. Detestable. Every last one of them. Especially thecoach." But an uncomfortable notion gnawed at Blythe. Perhaps, he thought,"I am a sick, sick man." So he decided to set sail on the sea of hisown spite, as it were--to take a Hate Duke World Tour that would allow "thejournalist in me to study the beast in me."

He visited Dukeplayers, fans and coaches, hoping to prove that they deserved the enmity he hadheaped upon them. The result is a hilarious and (believe it or not) remarkablywise chronicle of the UNC-Duke rivalry--one that, fortunately for Blythe,coincided with the Tar Heels' national championship last year.

To Hate Like This(SI, March 8, 2004) is the sort of book you don't want to say too much about,for fear of spoiling the surprises. Briefly, Blythe's verdict on the Dukies isthat only the law students are truly loathsome. Most of the undergraduates, soobnoxious in front of TV cameras, apparently undergo a profound change themoment ESPN leaves Durham: They study hard and mean well. Even sharpshootingguard J.J. Redick, who is so cocky that SI once dubbed him "the mostreviled" player in college basketball, is utterly different in his dormroom: thoughtful, sensitive and likeable. Finally, there's Krzyzewski, whomBlythe has referred to as Ratface and The Evil One. Asked why he's been sosuccessful, Coach K, fighting back tears, tells Blythe he owes it all to ...his saintly mother! How can you hate a guy who loves his mother?

Desperate forsomething detestable about Duke, Blythe seizes on Speedo Guy, a corpulent,demonstrative fan who appears at Cameron Indoor Stadium wearing nothing but amicroscopic bathing suit. Blythe notes with horror that "whenever SpeedoGuy jumped up and down, his pendulous, blue-painted breasts jumped up and down,too. He and his pendulous breasts were not in sync ... which meant that whenSpeedo Guy was coming down, his breasts were still going up and appeared to beassaulting him."

With fans likethat, Blythe concludes, hating Duke is just too satisfying a hobby torelinquish--though he frets over the fate of his soul. So much so that he asksColumbia professor Robert Thurman, an expert in Tibetan Buddhism, "whetherhatred for Duke might cause me to be unduly reincarnated . . . as a prayingmantis or a screech owl." The answer, delivered by the professor in apolite, compassionate, roundabout way: yes.

Fresh Off the Assembly Line


by John Feinstein

Little, Brown, $25.95

There is only one thing worse than a bad sports book,and that is a long bad sports book. Having slogged through more than my shareof these, I offer, as a public service, the three questions that every sportsfan should ask before purchasing a book that he or she suspects might be bad aswell as long.

1) Has it been less than six months since the author'slast book came out? Well, in this case it was five, for the prolificFeinstein's Next Man Up, a probing, sympathetic look at the enormous stressthat NFL players endure, was released in October 2005. It's very difficult topump out two books in such quick succession, unless one of them is, well, notas good as the other. Suffice it to say that Last Dance is not the betterone.

2) If you open the book at random, do you findpassages that seem to have been written by Yogi Berra while he was half asleep?I mean passages like, "On April 28, 1993, Valvano died. But not before hefinally found the next thing he had been looking for since the nationalchampionship: Cancer."

3) Is the book engorged with saccharine stories aboutpeople's medical problems? Feinstein even grows misty-eyed over Dick Vitale'shernia surgery.

You can call it the hat trick, or you can call it"stee-rike three!" Just don't call it worth 26 bucks.



BLUE MEANIES The Cameron Crazies were one reason the author heartily despised Duke.



[See caption above.]